DOCTRINE OF BASIC STRUCTURE

DOCTRINE OF BASIC STRUCTURE

The concept of the basic structure of the Constitution is nowhere found in the Constitution. This doctrine is judicial innovation and was given its shape by the Supreme Court in the Keshavananda Bharti v. State of Kerala (1973). This concept was introduced by judiciary in order to tide over the spate of amendments, which was eroding into the edifice of our Constitution.

The doctrine states that any law passed by the Parliament which destroys the basic structure of the Constitution shall be declared void to extent of its destruction. The basic aim of the Supreme Court was to maintain its superiority and to sustain balance between the three organs of the state. The court, however, failed to define the terms of the basic structure, but in a number of decisions it has made clear what is the basic structure of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court upheld this doctrine in Raj Narain v. Indira Gandhi case and in Minerva Mill case. By using this doctrine, the Supreme Court struck down the amended provision of Article 368, which was added by 42nd amendment on the ground that it deprives the Supreme Court of the power of judicial review, which is a basic feature of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court in different cases has explained what are the basic features in the Constitution:

  • Supremacy of the Constitution (Kesavananda Bharti v. Union of India)
  • The objective specified in the Preamble of the Constitution (Kesavananda Bharti v. Union of India)
  • Article 32 (Kesavananda Bharti v. Union of India)
  • The Sovereign, Democratic, Republican structure (Kesavananda Bharti v. Union of India)
  • Unity and integrity of the Nation (Kesavananda Bharti v. Union of India)
  • The balance between Part III and Part IV i.e., Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles (Kesavananda Bharti v. Union of India)
  • Rule of Law (Indira v. Rajnarain)
  • The principle of Equality (Indira v. Rajnarain)
  • Judicial Review (Indira v. Rajnarain)
  • The Parliamentary system of Government (Indira v. Rajnarain)
  • The principle of Free and Fair Elections (Indira v. Rajnarain)
  • Federalism (Minerva Mills v. Union of India)
  • Secularism (Minerva Mills v. Union of India)
  • Freedom & Dignity of the individual (Minerva Mills v. Union of India)
  • Limitation upon the amending power conferred by Article 368 (Minerva Mills v. Union of India)
  • The concept of Social and Economic Justice to build a welfare state (Bhim v. Union of India)
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Landmark Case laws: –

In Keshavananda Bharti v. State of Kerala,1973 case, the supreme court introduced the doctrine of basic structure and the court in this case by majority of 7:6 overruled the judgement of Golak Nath case that the Parliament has wide powers of amending the Constitution and it extends to all the Articles, but the amending power is not unlimited and does not include power to destroy or abrogate the ‘basic feature’ of the Constitution. According to Sikri, C.J, “ The expression ‘amendment of this Constitution’ does not enable parliament to completely change the fundamental features of the Constitution so as to destroy its identity.” After the judgement a review bench was setup to go through the basic structure doctrine and assess its constitutionality validity.

In Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narain, 1975, the Supreme Court applied the theory of basic structure and struck down clause(4) of Article 329-A, which was inserted by 39th amendment Act, on the ground that it was beyond the amending power of Parliament as it destroyed the basic feature of Constitution.

In Minerva Mills v. Union of India, 1980, the supreme court struck down clause (4)&(5) of Article 368 inserted by 42nd amendment, on the ground that these clauses destroyed the essential feature of the basic structure of the Constitution. Limited amending power is a basic structure of the Constitution.

In Waman Rao v. Union of India 1981, the supreme court said that all amendments that were made before April 24,1973 i.e., the date on which the judgement of Keshavananda Bharati was delivered were valid and constitutional. But amendments made on or after that date were beyond the constituent power of parliament because they damage the basic structure of the Constitution.

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Author: sushma,
Ideal Institute of Management and Technology, 2nd year (BALLB)

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